At the Shoah Memorial in Paris, an exhibition traces the life of comic book hero Spirou during the Holocaust


Can a comic book character like Spirou help confront the Holocaust with younger people? The process can be surprising. An exhibition presented at the Shoah Memorial in Paris is a successful experiment. And it traces the life of the young groom during the occupation of Belgium and his – fictitious – encounter with the Jewish painter Felix Nussbaum, a very real victim of the genocide. The red wire? The excellent work of Émile Bravo, Spirou – Hope in spite of everything. “The most important Holocaust comic ever written mice by Art Spiegelmann »advances scientific commissioner Didier Pasamonik.

Original plates, photographic archives, posters, paintings… The visit, dense, takes us to these dark years following the mascot of the Dupuis editions. “It is a period that has interested me since childhood”, confides the author of the cartoon, son of a Spanish republican. This great initiation story, awarded last year at the Angouleme festival, takes place during the Second World War. The idea is to explain how the little boyfriend invented by Rob-Vel in 1938 becomes the humanist hero we know: “Often it takes trauma for spirits to awaken. I imagined that Spirou had matured during this terrible time. »

The visitor is therefore invited to discover, in a colorful universe, the genesis of the character and his awareness of the destiny reserved for the Jews. Each sequence begins with a page taken from an album. Documents, objects, small videos show how this was reflected in reality. Escape to the roads. Fam. The fear. “I’m not trying to portray Spirou as a war hero, but to show a boy who wants to survive”explains Emile Bravo.

Imagine a meeting between Spirou, the painter Felix Nussbaum and his wife Felka Platek, killed by the Nazis like 46% of the Jews in Belgium. And we observe, with emotion, their identity cards, the list of the convoy that took them to Auschwitz on July 31, 1944, original paintings or reproductions, which allow us to rediscover this painter of new objectivity.

Awareness without violent image

A way to evoke the death camps without having to show them. “I wanted to talk about the Shoah but I didn’t know how; when I discovered Felix Nussbaum’s last painting, The triumph of death, I understood that it would be through this artist », explains Emile Bravo. Because it wasn’t about sending Spirou to Auschwitz. In the Memorial exhibition, as in almost all of the 330 pages that make up the four volumes of his comic strip, there is no violent image. But photos of the internment camps where the German painter, like Émile Bravo’s father, was interned, alongside others. “undesirables”. A yellow star, like the one worn by Spirou’s wondering friends in a box: “But why is it serious to be Jewish, in the end? » Or those trains heading to unknown destinations.

Faced with persecution, some resist. The paper hero. As editor of Spirou’s diary, says Jean Doisy, who uses a traveling theater to cover his clandestine actions. The little ones will admire the puppets. The course, very educational, is aimed at all generations. “It’s the first time we can make an exhibition about the Holocaust for a young audience”, welcomes Caroline François, the Commissioner General. The Shoah, remember, is on CM2’s curriculum. The groom and his faithful Spip thus deciphers, at the height of a child, key information. They are given a notebook at the beginning of the course. With evidence And some questions to make them think: “Have you ever seen pictures of war refugees on the news? How do you think we could help them? »

The author Émile Bravo is convinced: “You have to explain to children as soon as possible the world they live in. Prepare them to deal with it. » For him, “Spirou is used to convey this message: we must try to remain human, reject violence, show empathy for others”. In the guest book, at the exit, the children thank: “It was super good”enthuses Jojo. “I loved this kind of wartime travel”, slips Sacha, who draws a small heart. And 10-year-old Hannah mischievously points out: “Very nice exhibition, quite sad, but it gives us hope (despite everything). »

“Spirou in the Shoah Agitation”, until August 30 at the Shoah Memorial (Paris, 4th). Free admission.

Source : Le JDD

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